Why fire services are thriving and we are not
By Dave Edmonds
When it comes to disease, there’s a difference between treating the symptoms and finding the cure.
Police officer occupational discontent and job-caused stress are at their highest ever. Many LEOs are finding easier and more rewarding ways to make a living, and for more money, too. There are fewer good applicants, and fewer applicants, period. The commonly blamed causes — things like ineffective leadership, unrealistic workload, poor officer morale and public ingratitude — do deserve consideration. But what if these are just symptoms of a deeper root cause? That’s the way I see it, and I hope that we might finally move the discussion away from blaming the symptoms, toward naming and then curing the disease.
Law enforcement’s longtime inadequate service delivery model is that disease. There are real solutions for this, but unless government starts acting on them soon, the quality of our national police force may eventually merit the current ingratitude. Our service delivery model has not kept up with the ever-increasing demands. Over the decades, responsibilities and regulations have drastically increased, but we’re basically working the same way and with a lot of the same resources we did 80 years ago.
At the same time, however, there does exist a nationwide, widely accepted, highly functional service delivery model for public safety. It provides adequate funding for the mission, as well as maintaining generous, healthy and sustainable occupational conditions for its workers. Because of that, these public safety servants not only fulfill their mission with broad public satisfaction, but also enjoy a high level of job contentment and thrive throughout their careers. And finally, they live long, healthy and happy retirements.
It’s a great public safety model. It’s just not ours.
For the last 25 years, whenever I’ve seen an old, fit guy at the gym, I’ve gone out of my way to greet him. After all, I want to end up the same way. I figure that if there are any patterns to learn, they’ll come to light. It turns out there is one pattern: A lot of them are retired firefighters. Figures. Everybody loves them, they get paid to sleep … and they live forever, too? We know that long-term job stress and inadequate resources make our jobs harder and our lives shorter. Abundant evidence shows that the opposite can be true, too. I call this the Firefighter Corollary.